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The Word, The Truth

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Homily for Tuesday of the 32nd Week in OT, Feast of St. John the Lateran Church, 9 November 2021, John 2:13-22

Because we are celebrating the feast of St. John the Lateran Church, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, our mother Church, all our readings today are speaking about the temple of God. They are using three different images to describe the divine presence: WATER in the first reading, BREATH or spirit in the second reading, and FIRE in the Gospel reading.

In our first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is speaking about a vision of fresh water gushing forth and flowing out of the temple, giving life to everything on its path. In our second reading, St Paul is reminding the Corinthians that they are now that temple built on the foundation of Jesus Christ with the Spirit (or breath) of God dwelling within them.

In the Gospel, Jesus is portrayed by John as an angry prophet, burning with indignation as he carries out a symbolic prophetic act that is popularly called the cleansing of the temple. John tells us “he made a whip out of cords” and used it to drive away the money changers and animal traders. Where is the FIRE there, you might ask?

John tells us that what Jesus did made the disciples recall the words of the Scriptures. But he quotes only half of the verse. It is from Psalm 69:10, and the whole quotation goes,“Because zeal for your house has consumed me, I am hated by those who hate you.”

These words had been said originally by Jeremiah, six centuries before Jesus. Like Jesus, Jeremiah got into trouble because he publicly denounced the kind of piety being practiced by worshippers in the temple as empty and meaningless. The prophet called attention to the disconnect between their apparent religiosity and their total disregard for the covenant. How they allowed people to be murdered in cold blood by those in authority, leaving thousands of women widowed, and children orphaned.

Jeremiah, who was himself from a priestly family, was in effect accusing his fellow priests of reneging on their duty to keep the perpetual fire in the temple burning. He seems fully aware that this fire merely symbolized God’s justice and compassion for the poor, which was first revealed to Moses in a burning bush. (Exodus 3: 3-10) This was the significance of the fire that Moses later instructed the Levitical priests to keep alive and burning perpetually before the Holy of Holies. But they had reduced it to a ritual that was empty of meaning. It was like the fire that was supposed to be burning in the heart of the temple had been extinguished. Now it burns in the heart of the prophet who says, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”

The closest Tagalog translation that I can think of for that line is, “Ang alab ng puso para sa tahanan mo, sa dibdib ko’y buhay.” Sounds familiar?Yes, it is the line from the Lupang Hinirang.

We have come together again for our annual retreat as shepherds to whom the Lord has entrusted his flock. It is a good occasion to rekindle the flame of our own prophetic, priestly and kingly calling and mission. Magandang itanong sa pananalangin natin sa mga susunod na araw ng ating pananahimik, “Ang alab ba ng puso sa dibdib ko’y buhay pa rin?” We are supposed to be guardians of the fire of God’s redeeming love. Our task is to keep it alive and burning in the hearts and souls of our faithful.

Yesterday, as soon as I arrived, I went out to the garden to take a look at the majestic view of the Taal lake from the view deck. It looked so serene. But the cloud of smoke coming out of its crater and thick layer of ashes around it cannot but warn us that there is fire that is burning underneath, and we hope it does not explode anytime soon. Volcanologists have not yet given the people the assurance that the rising magma has simmered down already.

Sometimes in prayer, I feel God’s anger also raging like a volcano that is getting ready to explode, especially when people forget their history too quickly. It is still blazing as it did before Moses, when he sees the affliction of people, when hears their cry, when he knows how their sufferings are caused by indifference and the callousness of their fellow human beings.

You see, prayer is not all about finding peace. Sometimes it will also be about seeing as God sees, feeling as God feels and being disturbed.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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